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Here you can read the latest research on Occlusion & KAATSU style training.
(We go through the studies and summarize everything for you)
Wilson, J. M., Lowery, R. P., Joy, J. M., Loenneke, J. P., & Naimo, M. A. (2013). Practical Blood Flow Restriction Training Increases Acute Determinants of Hypertrophy Without Increasing Indices of Muscle Damage. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(11), 3068-3075.Read Study Summary
Abe, T., Yasudu, T., Sato, Y., Kearns, C., Inoue, K., Koizumi, K., & Ishii, N. (2005). Skeletal muscle size and circulating IGF-1 are increased after two weeks of twice daily ‘‘KAATSU’’ resistance training. International Journal of KAATSU Training Research,1, 6-12.Read Study Summary
Fujita, Satoshi, et al. "Blood flow restriction during low-intensity resistance exercise increases S6K1 phosphorylation and muscle protein synthesis." Journal of applied physiology 103.3 (2007): 903-910.Read Study Summary
Madarame, H., Neya, M., Ochi, E., Nakazato, K., Sato, Y., & Ishii, N. (2008). Cross-Transfer Effects of Resistance Training with Blood Flow Restriction. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,40(2), 258-263. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e31815c6d7eRead Study Summary
Detailed 8-Week BFR Program
BFR training and the technique is considered totally safe and beneficial for most people. It’s been extensively studied and there are no well documented cases of blood clotting, muscle, or nerve damage. As with anything related to your health you need to check with your doctor first because there are some circumstances where BFR Training is not advised. For instance strategically trapping blood in the extremity may not be good for people who have varicose veins, a history of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), have had a lymph node removed – that type of thing. Under certain individual circumstances your doctor might not recommend blood flow restriction therapy but for the majority of athletes and bodybuilders its totally safe.
Most schools of though agree that BFR Training works through these mechanisms:
1. It causes blood and lactate to accumulate and stay in a muscle longer than it normally would which has an anabolic effect (i.e. leads to muscle growth)1
2. There’s a muscle fiber type switch where your arms or legs have to use your larger fast twitch fibers earlier during an occluded exercise like this. Typically these fibers would only be recruited under heavier weight.2
3. It has been shown to have systemic effects like causing increases in IGF-1 maximizing muscle growth throughout the body in addition to just the target muscle3
Yes they have been proven to work. Researchers have consistently found that by wearing blood flow restriction bands in the right place at the proper pressure during exercise that athletes can select weights as light as 20% of their 1 rep max and get the same hypertrophy response in a muscle.4
BFR Training is a form of exercise done by applying a band or strap to the upper part of an arm or leg at a specific pressure. The technique is frequently used by bodybuilders and physical therapists because it has been empirically shown to elicit muscle growth with lighter weights through metabolic stress rather than just mechanical stress.
A good pair of occlusion bands typically cost $30 USD. Some companies sell inflatable bands cuffs to mimic the feeling of air used in KAATSU systems for $200 to $300 USD.
Occlusion bands should be left on through a series of sets and they remain on for about 5 or 10 minutes. Trapping lactate in the target muscle is a key part of why BFR training is effective because it accumulates and interacts with sensors in the muscle. When you take your cuffs off between sets blood flow is returning to the heart and washes that lactate away so you don’t want to take them off too soon.
1 Nalbandian M, Takeda M. Lactate as a Signaling Molecule That Regulates Exercise-Induced Adaptations. Biology (Basel). 2016;5(4):38. Published 2016 Oct 8. doi:10.3390/biology5040038
2 Kawada, S., and N. Ishii. “Changes in skeletal muscle size, fibre‐type composition and capillary supply after chronic venous occlusion in rats.” Acta physiologica 192.4 (2008): 541-549.
3 Fujita, Satoshi, et al. “Blood flow restriction during low-intensity resistance exercise increases S6K1 phosphorylation and muscle protein synthesis.” Journal of applied physiology 103.3 (2007): 903-910.
4 Abe, T., et al. “Skeletal muscle size and circulating IGF-1 are increased after two weeks of twice daily “KAATSU” resistance training.” International Journal of KAATSU Training Research 1.1 (2005): 6-12.